West Valley College Spring 2018

POLI SCI 1  - ONLINE (3 Units)
Sec. 30164

Tim Kelly, Ph.D.
Office Hours:  M/W/Th 2:00-2:45 and by appt.

Office:  SS/LA 1E
(408) 741-2546


Why do millions of Americans not vote?  Why is it that the winner of the popular vote for President can also be the loser of the election?  Is there really a difference between Democrats and Republicans?  Do we really need 50 state governments if we have one national government?  Why was there a recall election in California?  Don't know much about American politics?  Then welcome to Poli Sci 1!

Poli Sci 1 covers the structure and functions of the American national state and local governments.  Emphasis is placed on the development of democratic institutions through historical and contemporary studies.  Students will have an opportunity to understand what has shaped the United States Constitution, its amendments, major court interpretations, the operation of and one's role in democratic government.  This course may be used to meet the Social Science I or II requirement in the General Education Pattern for transfer to the California State University system.

Additional topics this course will explore are the following:

Required Texts

General Course Policies

  1. Print out this syllabus as evidence for transfer to a four-year institution.
  2. Participation on the group discussion board and COMPLETING THE ASSIGNED READING by the beginning of each topic are essential to passing this course.
  3. Tutoring is available at no charge at Tutorial Services.  It is provided by qualified, trained students who have been recommended by the faculty.  Contact Tutorial Services in the Library Building or call 741-2038.
  4. ***Plagiarism/cheating will be treated as automatic failures and offenders will be referred to the CSSO for disciplinary action.  Familiarize yourself with the campus policy on cheating detailed in the College Catalogue under Student Conduct Code, 5.8.19 Policy on Cheating.  (You will find examples of what plagiarism is and how to avoid it at http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/wts/plagiarism.html.)***
  5. West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  College materials will be available in alternate formats (Braille, audio, electronic format, or large print) upon request.  Please contact the Disability and Educational Support Program at (408) 741-2010 (voice) or (408) 741-2658 (TTY) for assistance.
  6. Student Learning Outcome:  As part of the final exam, students will answer 25 multiple choice questions representing the breadth of American government topics covered in the course.  

Pass/No Pass Option and Dropping

Students can no longer take Polit 1 with the Pass/No Pass grade option.  

In addition, students who wish to be dropped from the course are responsible for doing this on their own.  I will not do this for you.  If you stop logging on to Canvas but your name is on my roster at the end of the semester, you will receive an "F" in the class with no opportunities to change this to a "W."  Once you log on to Canvas you will be counted as attending the class and so will not be dropped as a first day No Show.

Quizzes and Exams

The course consists of 15 quizzes, a midterm, and a final.  ALL QUIZZES AND EXAMS ARE CONDUCTED ONLINE on the Canvas server.

Each quiz is based on the corresponding chapter that is assigned in the Bardes textbook for that week.  You will have 20 minutes to complete 12 questions (once you begin the quiz, you must complete it within 20 minutes by 11:59 pm of the due date).  You MAY NOT make-up a missed quiz.  In addition to reading the textbook, you may find useful the companion web page for our Bardes textbook maintained by Wadsworth/Cengage (your book's publisher) at http://coursemate.cengage.com/CPReader/View/9781133949244/default.aspx?anon=True. Keep in mind that this web site is for an older edition of the textbook (the publisher no longer maintains a companion web page for newer editions to the book, including the one assigned for this course).

Once you take the quiz, the system will give you an immediate score; however, you can only fully review your quiz for the correct answers once the quiz period is complete (i.e., at the end of the week).

Your Midterm and Final exams are essay format and will be explained in Study Guides that are currently posted on the lecture web page.

IF A PROBLEM OCCURS:  Students are encouraged not to wait until the last day to take a quiz (which will be available for the entire week).  If a problem occurs with the system or your computer (and let's face it - such problems DO occur from time to time), contact me ASAP.  I will help you solve the problem.  If, however, you wait until the final day (or worse, the final hours) and a problem arises, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to help you before the deadline (you take that risk upon yourself by waiting so long to take the quiz).

Threaded Discussions

Every one to two weeks a threaded discussion will be posted based on the online readings, something in the textbook, or current events in the news. Click on the Discussions link on the Canvas page, read the topic statement, and then post your comments. You may respond to the instructor's statement or any other comment made by other students.  You must participate in each of these discussions in order to receive credit for your participation.  More instructions are posted on Canvas.

Extra Credit

The Student Learning Outcome quiz at the end of the semester will be worth 25 extra credit points.


You are required to turn in one paper analyzing the debates presented in the online readings.  This paper is 220 points and is explained in more detail HERE.  

How to Read the Lectures

For more information about this online course format, go to http://instruct.westvalley.edu/kelly/.

Course Requirements

Grading Policy:   Grades are awarded on a Standard Scale:

1. One paper
2. Fifteen Quizzes
3. Midterm Exam
4. Final examination
5. List-Serve Participation
(220 pts)
(180 pts)
(250 pts)
(300 pts)
(50 pts)

1000 - 900
899 - 800
799 - 700
699 - 600
599 and below

Dates to Remember

February 11:
March 11 - 17:
March 17:
Last Day to Drop w/out a "W"
Optional Due Date for Paper
April 26:
April 28:
May 13 - 19:
Last Day to Drop w/a "W"
Due Date for Paper (if you didn't exercise optional due date)
SLO Quiz Availability


Saturday, May 19 - Wednesday, May 23 (Availability ends 5/23 at 11:59 pm)

Course Outline

Discussions and quizzes are due at the end of each week (unless otherwise noted).

Week 1  (Jan 29 - Feb 3)

- What is American Politics?
- Understanding the 2016 Campaign:  An Early Assessment
Contemporary Issues in California Politics

Readings:  Text, Ch 1; ONLINE:  Howard Zinn, How Democratic Is America?; Sidney Hook, A Response to Howard Zinn; Michael Blood, California GOP Showing Worries Party Strategists

Week 2  (Feb 4 - 10)

- The U.S. Constitution:  Rules of the Political Game 
- Simulation:  Constitution

Readings:  Text, Ch 2;  ONLINE:  Robert Brown, Charles Beard and the Constitution:  A Critical Analysis

Week 3  (Feb 11 - 17)

- American Federalism:  Eighty-Seven Thousand Governments
- Simulation:  Federalism

Readings:  Ch 3


Week 4  (Feb 18 - 24)

- Civil Liberties in America
- Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism

Readings:  Text, Ch 4; ONLINE:  Criminal Rights (Gavzer vs. Kilwein)(pdf); Darius Rejali, 5 Myths About Torture and Truth; Matt Apuzzo, et. al., Does Torture Work?  The CIA's Claims and What the Committee Found

  • Canvas Discussion:  Criminal Rights:  Gavzer (Rothwax) vs. Kilwein
  • Canvas Quiz: Ch 4 (closes Saturday at 11:59 pm)

Week 5   (Feb 25 - March 3)

- The Politics of Civil Rights:  Race and Ethnicity
- The Politics of Civil Rights:  Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Persons with Disabilities

Readings:  Text, Ch  5; ONLINE:  Birthright Citizenship:  Is it the Right Policy for the U.S.? (Jon Feere, NO vs. J. Richard Cohen, YES - pdf)

Week 6  (March 4 - 10)

Public Opinion and Political Socialization
- Simulation:  Public Opinion

Readings:  Text, Ch 6; ONLINE:  Frank Newport, Polling Matters (pdf); Robert Weissberg, Leaders Should Not Follow Public Opinion Polls

Week 7  (March 11 - 17)


PAPER OPTIONAL DUE DATE:  Saturday, March 17 by 11:59 pm

MIDTERM Begins Sunday, March 11 and ends Saturday, March 17 at 11:59 pm

Week 8  (March 18 - 24)

- Political Parties in America
- Simulation:  Political Parties

Readings:  Text, Ch 8

SPRING BREAK 3/26 - 3/31

Week 9  (Apr 1 - 7)

- Interest Group Politics
- Simulation:  Interest Groups

Readings:  Text, Ch 7; ONLINERonald Dworkin, The Decision That Threatens Democracy; Ira Glasser, Understanding the Citizens United Ruling; Matt Bai, How Much Has Citizens United Changed the Political Game? (pdf)

Week 10  (Apr 8 - 14)

- Campaigns and Elections in America
- The Media and Politics

Readings:   Text, Chs 9, 10; ONLINE:  Voter ID Laws {Chandler Davidson, The Historical Context of Voter Photo-ID Laws; Hans von Spakovsky, Requiring Identification by Voters (pdf)}; 

Week 11  (Apr 15 - 21)

- Congressional Politics
- Simulation:  Congress

Readings:  Text, Ch 11; ONLINE:  Congressional Representation readings [Trustee, Delegate and Politico (pdf)]

Week 12 (Apr 22 - 28)

- Presidential Politics
- Simulation:  Presidency

Readings:   Text, Ch 12 Online:  Bush Quietly Undercuts Laws With Bill-Signing Statement (SJ Mercury News); Signing Statement Study Says Administration Has Ignored Laws (Washington Post); Obama Signing Statement:  Despite Law, I Can Do What I Want On Czars" (The Daily Caller)

REQUIRED PAPER DUE DATE (if you didn't exercise the optional date)Saturday, April 28 by 11:59 pm.

4/26 LAST DAY TO DROP w/a "W"

Week 13   (Apr 29 - May 5)

- The Federal Judiciary
- Simulation:  Judiciary

Readings:  Text, Ch 14; ONLINE:  Edwin Meese, The Great Debate:  A Jurisprudence of Original Intention; Irving Kaufman, What Did the Founding Fathers Intend?

Week 14  (May 6 - 12)

- Bureaucratic Politics
- Simulation:  The Bureaucracy

Readings:  Text, Ch 13; ONLINE:  Wedel, Federalist No. 70:  Where Does the Public Service Begin and End? (pdf); Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Privatization (pdf)

Week 15  (May 13 - 19)

- Politics and American Foreign Policy
- Simulation:  Foreign Policy

Readings:  Text, Ch 16;  ONLINESestanovich, "The Brilliant Incoherence of Trump's Foreign Policy"


Saturday, May 19 - Wednesday, May 23 (Availability ends 5/23 at 11:59 pm)